The mineral exploration industry requires new methods and tools to address the challenges of declining mineral reserves and increasing discovery costs. Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) represents an emerging geochemical tool for mineral exploration that can provide rapid, in situ, compositional analysis and high-resolution imaging in both laboratory and field and settings. We demonstrate through a review of previously published research and our new results how LIBS can be applied to qualitative element detection for geochemical fingerprinting, sample classification, and discrimination, as well as quantitative geochemical analysis, rock characterization by grain size analysis, and in situ geochemical imaging. LIBS can detect elements with low atomic number (i.e., light elements), some of which are important pathfinder elements for mineral exploration and/or are classified as critical commodities for emerging green technologies. LIBS data can be acquired in situ, facilitating the interpretation of geochemical data in a mineralogical context, which is important for unraveling the complex geological history of most ore systems. LIBS technology is available as a handheld analyzer, thus providing a field capability to acquire low-cost geochemical analyses in real time. As a consequence, LIBS has wide potential to be utilized in mineral exploration, prospect evaluation, and deposit exploitation quality control. LIBS is ideally suited for field exploration programs that would benefit from rapid chemical analysis under ambient environmental conditions.
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